Setting out to be a “definitive career anthology,” Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council is out now and we’ve been listening to it all weekend. It’s a three-LP set, on either coloured or black vinyl and – like anything of this stature and ambition – there’s a mixture of pros and cons to the finished product.
Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons. But, in the interests of balance, here are the five standout tracks that left us buzzing, and the five thoughts that hung over us like question marks as we lifted the needle at the end of Disc Three, Side 2.
1. Dropping Bombs On The Whitehouse (Extended version)
It’s no coincidence that this track is being released days before such a pivotal US election. Seems like The Council had one last political bombshell up their sleeve. And they couldn’t have dropped it at a better time. Previously unreleased, it’s a pure Dave Brubeck-style jazz pastiche. And you can hear how it became an Extended Version: the track rounds out nicely at the three-minute mark, but then continues into a drum solo – for more than a full minute! – before bursting back to life.
2. My Ever-Changing Moods (Demo)
The sound quality is up and down on this one but the music is dramatic, energetic, and enthralling. It’s a must-listen. And it’s got a violin solo, too.
3. All Gone Away
The light summer breeze-like jazz of this track was a highlight on Our Favourite Shop, its effortlessness belying its genius. And this one’s got a flute solo!
Noticing a theme here? The theme, or one of them, is how Weller and Talbot used to paint from such a broad baroque pop palette that they were pretty much in a class of their own.
4. Martin Freeman
A self-confessed fanatic of the group, actor Martin Freeman provides a fresh take with his sleevenotes. “The Style Council gave so much to my youth,” he says. “Who am I kidding? Yes, and to my adulthood as well”. It’s a welcome addition although we should also add that there’s one other job of sleevenotes and promotion that the world is waiting for Martin to put some Hollywood welly behind, and that’s the work of his brother Tim’s band: the infamous and sumptuous pop catalogue of Frazier Chorus.
5. Party Chambers
Another rarity, this comes in the form of an “Early Instrumental Version” at the end of Disc One, Side One and it’s a joy: just under three minutes in the company of Mick Talbot dueling with himself on both piano and organ.
1. Missing Modernism
We can’t find any material from the band’s fifth and final studio album. Which is bizarre. Sure, it was rejected by the record company when they delivered it in 1989. But that’s entirely a reflection on Polydor, and in no way a reflection on Weller and Talbot’s ongoing thirst for new horizons in dance music.
You wouldn’t make a star Wars documentary and complete omit one of the movies, would you? This is their Jedi, after all, not their Holiday Special.
2. The lack of Dee C. Lee
Her mid-80s solo releases were very much extensions of the Style Council. The B-side of See The Day, for example, was even credited to The Council Collective. To say nothing of the complementary artwork by Simon Halfon. So it would have been nice to have seen some of this material reflected on the compilation.
3. The Positioning
Is it me or do so many Style Council reissues and compilations have too much of a nod towards Weller’s mod days? It’s almost like someone at label level has decided that’s what he’s most well known for, so that’s what has to form part of the presentation of The Style Council. Which is ridiculous because, at the time, mod was locked firmly in the past. They didn’t as much dance on the grave of The Jam, more set up a cocktail bar in the cemetery.
4. The Omissions
The only way to enjoy this release is on vinyl – that’s what these songs were originally recorded for, after all. So it’s a shame to see rarities like the Instrumental of Shout To The Top relegated to the accompanying compact disc and HD streaming editions. (Is that a clue that it was included more for its synch appeal?)
5. The Design
The album art is reasonable enough. But reasonable enough is by no means what we used to see from the Style Council back in the day. Simon Halfon’s original artwork was sublime and did more to present them almost as a lifestyle rather than a band, more so in fact than their videos or photoshoots. If only this could have been continued after they’d slit up for the numerous catalogue releases that have followed.